So Microsoft love them or hate them they pretty much own the PC world. I know there are you apple lovers out there. Sorry you are on your own. I’m not biting that apple! For years I have used Outlook. As a Microsoft Action Pack subscriber it came included in Windows Office and it is in my opinion the best thing out there for managing email and your calendar. For many years I ran it stand alone and had my mail from my davis6 domain from Godaddy downloaded into it. When we had a server in the house my husband never would get our mail routing up and running as it should. He had a lot of issues with privacy and the government. LONG story there. So it was always kind of a klugy system. It was an exchange server but it wasn’t. It was totally isolated which was always a problem. After he died I decided to get a full blown exchange server and since networks are not my thing and I spent a few hours trying to figure out Exchange sever and only growing in frustration and anger I decided to see what other options were out there. I found that Microsoft now offers the Office365 product. That was the answer to my prayers! Other companies also offer the Office365 profuct including GoDaddy. You can purchase it from them and integrating it with your email might be a little easier. But for me PRICE is the determining factor and Microsoft offers the educational pricing and other companies refused to offer it. Now as a resident of Texas and a homeschooler I applied for an education license of Office365 with the SharePoint server and Microsoft approved me. Woohoo! That was a glorious day. Google, on the other hand offers their educational products free and they look interesting but several emails between me and Google and requesting escalation of my issue and Google still refuses to recognize homeschoolers at all. I can pay the full business rate with them or nothing. Personally why would I pay more for something? Office365 is pretty good. It’s not perfect but it’s well worth your look. With Office365 education pricing you get for $1.50 per user each month windows exchange, all the office products to download to your pc, the office products for tablet and 1 Tb of onedrive. Yes…..ONE TERABYTE. Now if you don’t know terrabytes…you will. Sooner or later your digital data is going to add up and you will find you have too much to store. It’s not the easiest to set up but if you read the online help and use tech support anyone can do it. Microsoft support when I was working was one of the worst. Anytime I had to call them and still when I have to deal with a windows issue I dread it. But if you are using Office365…they have the best support I’ve found and those guys don’t quit. I’ve had them on the phone for hours helping me. I’ve had them dog me for weeks because I didn’t return a phone call and I had an open ticket with them. Can you imagine. Tech support calling you every day sometimes 3 times a day to resolve your issue? Yeah..me neither. Their English is pretty good. I’m not sure where they are based but as far as understanding them and them understanding me even when I go “country” has never been a problem. When they don’t know something they will tell you they don’t know and they will go and research it and call or email you back with the solution. I have had one issue they couldn’t resolve because no one could figure out how to do what I wanted but they tried. They escalate issues easily. These guys are what tech support should always be. I hope they stay that way.
Ok. Why should I pay $1.50 per user for Office365. Ok. If 1 Tb PER USER didn’t make you say…ummm…that right there is a good deal. Then how about having your own exchange server. Many of you in the working world have it at work. You can have all the benefits of exchange for your personal email. All the calendar features in Outlook, syncing things to your phone, etc. I HATE gmail, yahoo mail and all those other free mails because….SPAM! Yahoo is the worst but google has it’s fair share of spam too. And…if I tell you my email address at google you won’t remember it. But remember in the earlier steps where we created our own domain. This is why. Everyone in my family has a Davis6.com email address. I made it simple. All you need to know is our first and last name and remember we have six kids. If you remember that much about me you can email me. To keep spam bots from finding it I’ll type it this way Susan (my first name) @Davis6 with the.com on the end. That’s it. Simple. My oldest son moved out recently. He was talking to me one day and he said, “mom I never really appreciated our email address. Can I keep it forever?” You see he was making friends now and collecting email addresses and they are so hard to remember. Since a bazillion people use gmail you wind up with some stupid email@example.com. Who the heck can remember that. Or you make something fun like our friends with something like onefunnyguy or something and then you can’t remember who onefunnyguy is. My son realized as he was giving our his email address…his name@our domain that it was simple and easy to remember. For the first time he understood why I did it. So…pick something easy, memorable and simple. Buy it, own it and keep it forever.
As I said the Office365 people will help you. When you purchase their product either at regular price which is still not a bad deal if you don’t have a large family or don’t’ want all your kids having email for mom and pop it’s affordable or if you can take advantage of the education discount because you homeschool. It’s worth it. When you purchase it it walks you through the initial steps to set up. Follow them. If you get stuck. Call. They will ask you for information about your email and if you have your own domain or not. If in doubt call. Once you get far enough you can get to the admin portion of Office365 and input help tickets on line. I’m telling you though. If you enter a help ticket don’t do it thinking…in about an hour I’ll deal with this so I should enter the ticket now. NO. I have literally had the phone ring I swear before I pushed the enter key. Microsoft is serious about this product. If you enter a support ticket and it takes 30 minutes for a call back I’d be surprised.
You can download Office for your computer for each user. It’s simple. Just follow their directions. One last plug for Office365. As a software developer I’ve spent years of my life talking to tech support. The one thing that is always an issue is whether or not the problem is actually a problem with their product or you just don’t know how to use it properly. For many tech support issues (Neat being really bad about this) if it isn’t a problem that you can prove their system has some fault in it they will charge you to help you. If you just need to know how to do something they won’t help you. With Office365 and especially the sharepoint service. These guys will help you figure things out and write code, etc. I’ll discuss sharepoint maybe in another blod in detail as it is a pretty amazing thing and you get it included with your Office365 so you might as well do something with it. So now you’ve got your email set up so you have everything you need in email, calendar, tasks, notes, etc. that can sync to your mobile device and that you can get anywhere. With Office365 if I’m on a ferry from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia and the only opion is the onboard computer I can go to office365 (actually I just go to my personal web page then click my icon) and login and see all my email or my calendar, etc. And…with no spam because…yep..Office365 has some great spam filters built into it and they do a great job catching spam. I don’t even have to mess with it.
More reasons for Office365 and Exchange server but will require you to tweak and tune it your way. I can access ANY mail I’ve ever received online. (Not from my phone…that is still limited) but from their web site. I get to archive mail. But archived mail is still available on line. No more manually archiving each year’s worth of email. (Yes…I actually have every email I’ve ever received archived on my NAS drive.) I used to archive in Outlook locally. Now I let Office365 through it’s policies automatically archive my mail. I set different folders to different things.
Let’s talk about mail organization for a minute. Some of you need some serious help. NO you do not need one fodler for every individual you’ve ever emailed. STOP THAT. That’s stupid. Make categories. Work, personal, home, business, banking. Group things together. Outlook has a fantastic search engine and it searches across folders. Let it do it’s job but stop making a bazillion folders. That’s just stupid. I have basics like Reservations where I keep all my current RV reservations I’ve booked to find quickly. Open Issues things I haven’t resolved yet, Follow Up things I’d like to follow up on but haven’t that might not be a real problem or issue. Maybe I’m researching water filters for my RV and I emailed this guy and he sent a lot of info I’ll stick it there until I make a decision on buying a filter. I keep my Inbox empty. That is the goal at least. Anything in my inbox is very important and needs to be handled. That’s another thing. People, people, people. I learned this many years ago in the paper world. If you touch something TWICE you’re doing it wrong! People waste more time moving paper from one pile to another than it would take to just file it the first time. Maybe it’s the industrial engineer in me but processes need to be streamlined. Never handle something more than once if you can avoid it. You are just wasting time. Example. I used to open the mail. Input whatever needed to be input, do whatever needed to be done then file it. If for some reason it couldn’t be done say a bill had to be paid but couldn’t be paid yet it went into the folder for bills to be paid where it waited. But the day it got paid and notated it went into the file. I didn’t move it to another place to wait to be filed. (Ok…yes for a while I did move it from one file to another then do all the filing.) But my late husband. Oh my Lord God in heaven tested my patience by putting me with that man. He would stack all his papers up. He would riffle through them looking for something, move them around a dozen times, put them into different piles and NEVER process them. That man God help him was the worst organized human being I’ve ever met except for the man who had a chainsaw in his kitchen. That dude..yeah…I never saw his paperwork…but his kitchen. He had to win. Ok. So. Figure out what makes sense. Make actionable type categories then make other categories. I do have one for my oldest son. He’s special. He got his own folder. Although he may get bumped becare he rarely emails me. I have what I deemed ChatPals because well when I named that folder chat rooms were popular and sometimes you’d email people you met. That one should pretty much be called friends now. I have Miscellaneous. That is pretty much anything that isn’t a personal friend or falls into another category. I also keep one called passwords. I used to keep all my passwords in this folder. I’d create a new account. Email myself my user name and password and save it there. And when my husband freaked out about me emailing a password I could also create an email and then save it in the password folder without ever actually emailing it. I also store activation codes there. All those products that require those ridiculous codes and if you lose it and have to reinstall you are screwed? I keep those there. Basically anything that is really, really, really important that I might forget goes into passwords. The passwords folder this is important here…MUST NEVER BE ARCHIVED. Make sure you set that one up to never archive. You want it to contain every password you’ve ever had. You never know when you need one of those things.
Let me digress a minute on passwords too. People. Really the companies want to make our lives really difficult but it doesn’t have to be. Stop making up different passwords for everything and then trying to remember them. Be smart. Don’t use easy to guess things like kids, pets, address, phone, ssn, etc. Pick a combination of letters and numbers usually 8 will work. Ok now..password hackers can hack that so companies now want to mix it up even more. Figure out something that is important to you that no one else would know. My late husband used the date he proposed to me. No one but the two of us knew it. It wasn’t recorded anywhere so no one could easily guess it. Birth dates, marriage dates, etc. those are all easy to find if you know how. So pick I’d say 4 letters and 4 numbers. For example 4 initials that mean something to you. Maybe the initials of a parent or grandparent. Then four numbers that mean something to you like a special date. Then pick one letter or even two leters to capitalize. Put them in whatever order you like numbers first letters first, etc. Ok. Then use this password on everything. But I can’t you say because XYZ company wants a special symbol. Ok. No problem. Pick one special symbol that you always use. Many systems like !. So if your password has an (ok this is driving me nuts. Microsoft refuses to let me type the lowercase letter I alone without capitalizing it). That is an EYE letter not an el letter or a number one. Geez..sometimes technology bites us. Or if you have a lower case el letter substitute it for the !. Figure out something that makes sense. Stick with $ or !. Most systems will take that for their symbols. Obviously $ could take the place of S. So standardize your password. BUT you say…what if someone gets my password. Yep…that could happen and it stinks when it does. Because you need to go and change every password you have everywhere and it will take some time. BUT…how much time do you waste trying to remember what cute password you created for this web site you only use once or twice a year? And honestly…look at your life. Unless you are Bill Gates, Donald Trump or someone who has something to do with the Clintons does anyone really want to hack you? I’m not stupid. It happens. But in all the years I’ve been using a standardized password which is…since the 80s I have never been hacked and had to change my password. I have, however, gone through a marriage to a manic depressive and subsequently a divorce and had to change my passwords at least twice because of his erratic behavior. So yes I know it can be time consuming. But wait. If you built your home page properly then it’s not as bad as you think. You spend an hour and click on each link on your page and go and change the password. You don’t forget anyone because if you did your job right up in step one or two then you have everything listed in one place. See…life is getting easier already.
Back to email and exchange. So you’ve got your folders and you’ve got your passwords. Outlook can keep you on schedule. It can help you organize your home. My kids all have email…remember my domaine name and $1.50 per user per month gets them their own email on Exchange. I schedule everything we do in Outlook. Why pay for all those new apps to organize your home. Outlook can do it. Like receipes. Save them in their own folder or save them in Neat. Either is searchable. If we have a dentist appointment, etc. when I create the appointment for myself I include the kids on it as attendees to the meeting. That way they also learn how to manage their time and schedule. I teach all my kids as soon as they can read and some before they can read to use Outlook. One thing I hate is doing the same thing over and over again and my poor kids well they didn’t get Mrs. Duggar for a mom, God in His infinite wisdom gave them me. I don’t have her patience. When I’m asked for the 3rd time what we’re doing today I start to lose it and when kid number 6 asks me the same thing that poor kid usually wishes he/she wasn’t the last to ask. So everything goes into the outlook calendar. All the kids have tablets. We travel full time so space is an issue. It was easier for me to tablet them all than to try to keep books. So we’re all digital. But restricted. I’ll get into that one with ScreenTime later. Now that we are travelling life is a bit of a blur at times. Honestly most days I don’t even know what day it is. When I make a reservation and I receive an email confirmation I drag and drop that confirmation email to the calendar icon at the bottom of Outlook and it creates an appointment. I enter the details at the top and the dates so it shows up on my calendar. Sometimes I add the kids to those so they know where we will be when. Since my calendar can get very busy looking since I schedule as much as possible mainly to remind myself of things I categorize campground reservations with a GREEN category I called…Campground Reservations. That way when I look at a monthly view of Outlook I can easily see that we are moving here and here and here and here. Then I move the reservation email to the reservation folder in Outlook. That way if I get there and they ask me anything or I need more details I can either click on the outlook calendar appointment and the email is contained in that appointment or I can look in the reservation folder. Depends on why I’m looking where I might look. I can easily open the folder and see I have 8 reservations in there. Once a reservation passes I move that email to the miscellaneous folder. Again I keep EVERYTHING. My folders are set to auto archive every month so I never have email older than 30 days with a few exceptions. Those special folders I created for open issues, follow up, passwords, those never archive. Simple settings in Outlook or made on exchange server will handle all that filing for you. But I do keep everything. Old habits die hard. When I worked you never knew when you might have to go back and prove a conversation. When writing custom software for people you spend a lot of time in discovery figuring out what is needed and then developing a system. Eventually someone will say, that’s not what we decided and you can pull the email and show them. This is exactly what was discussed and why. It always helped with what we call scope creep, it helped when people made decisions that you tried to tell them were bad but they insisted it be this way and then when it doesn’t work and they have to pay you for all that wasted time you don’t get blamed. So like I said. I keep everything. But Office365 now stores it all so I don’t worry about space. Because…yeah that 1 Tb with Office365. It doesn’t count email. That is just for files. I have yet to see any limit imposed by Microsoft on how much mail you can keep. They may have one but in the time I’ve been with them I haven’t seen it yet.
Your email will sync with your cell phone so you can set up reminders for everything and be nagged all day long by your phone. Just a fun story for you. There is an app that will read aloud your reminders. I thought I’d motivate myself to be more active by scheduling things in my calendar. But I ignored them. So I added this phone app to read aloud my reminders and it allowed you to put in a name to address you by. I added…Princess Susan. Then I added appointments for mini work out. But the phone saying “Princess Susan mini workout” just wasn’t doint it for me so I edited my appointments to be named things like “you should go for a walk because it will make you feel better” or my favorite, “you should go to bed so you can get your beauty sleep’ or my even more favorite “Princess Susan you should work out so that it will make you more beautiful than you already are.” Did it work? Well. No. I can’t say that I ever actually did any of those things that I wanted to do although I do think it helped me start going to bed earlier. But it did make me laugh. Every time my phone would say, “Princess Susan” I had to laugh and when it was in public…well that was even more interesting.